The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said that “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high,” referring to recent reports on Trump administration’s plan to reduce its presence in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And ISIS (Daesh) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO Allies support the peace process in Afghanistan. As part of this process, we have already significantly adjusted our presence.”
The NATO chief said that he has repeatedly said that they will continue to review their troop levels in Afghanistan.
“We now have under 12,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, and more than half of these are non-US forces,” he added.
He mentioned that even with further US reductions, NATO will continue its mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. “We are also committed to funding them through 2024,” he said.
“We went into Afghanistan together. And when the time is right, we should leave together in a coordinated and orderly way. I count on all NATO allies to live up to this commitment, for our own security,” he further said.
His remarks come as The New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump is pushing to accelerate withdrawals from Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia by the time he leaves office in January.
Under a draft order circulating at the Pentagon on Monday, the number of US forces in Afghanistan would be halved from the current deployment of 4,500 troops, The New York Times reported, quoting US officials.
Last month, Trump said in a Twitter post that he wanted all 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan home by Christmas, but top military and national security aides advised against such a precipitous withdrawal.
The president eventually agreed to the smaller drawdown, officials said.
This comes as Defense Ministry on Monday said that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are capable to defend the country if there is a withdrawal of international forces from the country. But Afghan experts have said the withdrawal should be done responsibly.
Countries in the region, including Pakistan, Iran and Russia have also asked for a responsible withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The reports come as violence has significantly increased in the country despite peace efforts. Meanwhile, the peace negotiations in Doha have stalled over differences on ground rules for the talks.